An article about super zooming a partial solar eclipse.

Super Zooming a Partial Solar Eclipse

Last Updated: 2024-03-24

Would you like to get some great close-up photographs and video clips of a partial solar eclipse? In this article, I'm going to share what I learned during the October 14, 2023 partial solar eclipse. I hope that this article will be helpful for people with super zoom cameras and for people with telephoto lenses.

Partial Solar Eclipse Nikon P1000 The October 14, 2023 partial solar eclipse.

I shoot with the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 super zoom camera. I used the P1000 to take all of the pictures in this article.

P1000 Product Shot The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 superzoom camera.

One thing to keep in mind is that this article is about partial solar eclipses. That's when the moon only blocks a portion of our view of the sun. You can also use the information in this article for total eclipses, but you'll need to do things a little differently for the few minutes when the sun is fully eclipsed. I'll try to point out those differences in the article.


Warning! Before we get started, let's cover some basic safety information. The sun is so insanely bright that it's dangerous to look at it no matter how much of it is blocked by the moon during a partial eclipse.

Protect Your Eyes! Looking at the sun can cause severe damage to your eyes. Never look at the sun without proper solar protection. Your eyes need to be protected at all times during a partial solar eclipse. You can wear a pair of solar glasses or you can hold up a solar card and look through that. You can learn about proper eye protection from the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) here.


Protect Your Equipment! Pointing your camera at the sun at any time during a partial solar eclipse can damage your lens, the camera sensor and probably other components. Placing things like sunglasses, regular neutral density filters and even some welding glasses over your lens will not filter out enough sunlight to protect your gear.

To take photos and record video of the sun during a partial solar eclipse, you'll need a special filter that's specifically designed for the sun. I use a threaded solar filter from Thousand Oaks Optical. It screws onto the camera lens just like a UV filter or a neutral density filter. This solar filter only allows 1/1000th of 1% of light through!

Thousand Oaks Optical threaded solar filter The Thousand Oaks Optical threaded solar filter.

I'm happy with my Thousand Oaks Optical solar filter and would buy another one from them if my current filter ever gets damaged. They offer filter sizes from 39mm to 95mm and prices range from $49 to $79 USD. The 77mm solar filter for the Nikon P1000 currently costs $59.

Threaded solar filter on a Nokon COOLPIX P1000 camera Thousand Oaks Optical solar filter on the Nikon P1000.

The one downside that I noticed with Thousand Oaks is that their solar filters can be out of stock at times, especially in the weeks leading up to a solar event. As I write this article - which is a few weeks before the April 9th 2024 solar eclipse - most of the threaded solar filters have been out of stock for the last few weeks. My guess is that this small company receives an overwhelming number of orders from around the world prior to solar events. BTW, I have no relationship with Thousand Oaks Optical, I'm just passing along my experience with the solar filter that I bought as a regular customer.

Click to see a full-size picture

You can also buy solar filters from the usual online stores like Amazon, B&H Photo and Adorama. There are also some neutral density filters that are made specifically for solar photography. Some solar filters thread onto the lens. Other filters slide over the end of the camera lens so that they can be placed on and taken off the lens quickly. This would be helpful during the short period of time during a total eclipse when you don't need a solar filter.

Be sure to check with your camera and lens manufacturers to determine which filter is right for your gear.



The sun is one of the biggest celestial objects that we can see in the sky. But relative to how large we like subjects to be in our photographs, the sun actually appears to be quite small. In fact, at a common wide-angle focal length of 24mm, you could fit about 84 suns next to each other.

Scale of the sun at 24mm The scale of the sun at a focal length of 24mm.

So to get a close-up picture of the sun, you'll need a camera with a telephoto lens. What is the right focal length to fill the picture frame with a partially eclipsed sun? The answer to that question depends on how much of the sun is blocked by the moon because that determines how much of the sun is visible. You'll need a larger focal length to fill the picture frame with the sun when less of it is visible.

The focal lengths mentioned in this article are 35mm equivalents. Also, if you are reading this article on a large screen like a tablet, desktop computer or a TV then you can click on some of the pictures to see a larger view.

To illustrate how big the sun will look, I took pictures at different focal lengths as the moon moved across my view of the sun during the October 14, 2023 solar eclipse. I was in the Phoenix, AZ area in the United States on that day, so I saw a partial eclipse. Note that I added a partial circle to these images to help visualize how much of the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

Click to see a full-size picture

If you have a super zoom camera, these pictures should give you a sense of how much you'll need to be zoomed in to fill the frame with what's left of the sun at various times during the eclipse. If you have a prime telephoto lens, then hopefully the pictures will show you how big the sun will be at the focal length of your lens.

Click to see a full-size picture

My super zoom oriented brain tells me that you'll want a lens with a focal length of at least 1200mm to get a close-up view of a partial eclipse. But what if the focal length of your lens is less than that? There are two options.

One option is to add a teleconverter (also called a tele extender) to your lens. Teleconverters are placed between the camera body and the lens and they optically magnify the image. So an 800mm lens with a 1.5X teleconverter gets you to 1200mm. A 600mm lens with a 2.0X teleconverter also gets you to 1200mm.

Click to see a full-size picture

If your camera has a sensor with a lot of megapixels, then the other option is to crop your image in post-production to make the sun appear to be larger in the frame.

As a super zoom camera fanatic, I tend to focus on zooming in as close as possible. And I do that on pretty much every photo shoot :) But I also realize that the closest image is not always the best image. It really depends on what your photographic goal is. When I'm on a photo shoot, I often zoom in to get the closest view possible and then I try other focal lengths to explore different perspectives on the subject.

Click to see a full-size picture

The "More eclipsed = more focal length" rule only applies to a partial solar eclipse. Throughout a partial solar eclipse, only the sun's surface is visible with a bit of glow around it. If you're going to be observing a total eclipse, there will be a brief time when the moon completely covers the sun. When the surface of the sun is completely covered, the sun's corona can be seen which expands outward from the sun's surface. When the corona is visible, the "More eclipsed = more focal length" rule doesn't apply because you'll probably want to zoom out to fit the corona in the picture.

The Nikon P1000 can apply a digital magnification in camera, so just for fun, I zoomed in to its maximum optical focal length of 3000mm and applied a 2X digital magnification to get the picture below. That's the equivalent of a 6000mm focal length!

Click to see a full-size picture


All of the pictures in this article were taken in full automatic mode. I just pointed the camera at the sun, zoomed in to frame it and pressed the shutter release button. Other than adding the watermark, the focal length number and the partial circle in the previous section, I didn't make any adjustments to the pictures in post-production.

However, auto-exposure and auto-focus only produced good results when the sun filled most of the picture frame. Using auto-exposure produced images that were over exposed at lower focal lengths and/or when the moon covered a large percentage of the sun. In these situations, the light from the sun is less prominent in the frame. Look at the difference between the exposure level of the sun in the 1200mm photo below versus the 1800mm photo next to it.

Partial solar eclipse exposure comparison Partial solar eclipse auto-exposure comparison.

So when the sun is large in the picture frame, you don't have to set the shutter speed, aperture or ISO if you don't want to. If you want to stay in auto-exposure mode when the sun is not large in the picture frame, then you can easily lower the brightness using Exposure Compensation.

My experience during the October 14, 2023 partial solar eclipse was that fully automatic mode worked similarly for recording video of the partial solar eclipse. The one difference that I would call out is the auto-focus mode. It worked well in almost all situations, but I noticed that every once in a while the camera would lose focus momentarily while recording and then hunt to get the sun back in focus.

Luckily, there's a quick fix for that problem. The sun will not get noticeably closer or farther away from the earth during the eclipse, so you don't really need continuous auto-focus. You can use auto-focus to initially acquire focus and then switch the camera to manual focus to record your video. BTW, you could also do that for taking pictures.

Click to see a full-size picture

On the Nikon COOLPIX P1000, you can set the mode to Manual Video and then set the video focus mode to Single Auto-fucus (AF-S). In this mode, focus is locked-in when the video recording starts and then auto focus is turned off for while the rest of the video is being recorded.

The good thing about taking pictures of the sun with a long lens is that you'll get a close-up view. The bad thing about getting a close-up view of the sun is that the sun will move across the picture frame fairly quickly. This can make it a challenge to frame your shot. And you'll have to keep an eye on your shutter speed because if it's too low then you could see some motion blur.

Note that the observations in this section are based on my experience with the Nikon P1000 camera. Results might be different with other cameras and lenses.


Partial solar eclipse events can last a long time. In Phoenix, AZ, the 10/14/2023 eclipse started at about 8 AM and finished at about 11AM, for a total event time of about three hours. If you're going to be taking photos and video for that long then I recommend putting your camera on a tripod so that you're not handling the camera for hours.

Click to see a full-size picture

If you've never photographed the sun, then be sure to practice before the eclipse. Using the full sun as your subject isn't exactly the same, but it will help you plan how to setup your gear and which settings on your camera to use. If possible, your practice photo shoot should be at the same location you'll be at on eclipse day and at the same time of day. This will help you find a good spot with an unobstructed view of the sun.

And finally... solar eclipses don't happen very often, so take the time to enjoy the sight of the eclipse! Remember to get out from behind the camera from time to time experience so you can experience the eclipse with your own eyes! Even if you don't plan to photograph the eclipse, if it will be visible in your area then schedule some tine to step outside and look up! Of course, when looking at the sun directly, protect your eyes with the proper solar viewing glasses, cards, etc.

Watch the Video

You can check-out my video of the October 14, 2023 partial solar eclipse in the Phoenix AZ area by clicking on the picture below. It includes video of various focal lengths and a full zoom out from a focal length of 3000mm to 24mm.

Click to watch the partial solar eclipse video
Click to Watch the Video on YouTube

Thanks for reading this article and watching the video! You can also check out some of my other articles and videos below. Or you can browse through all of my articles.

This article, the pictures and the video are Copyright One Lens Two. All rights reserved. These materials may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without the expressed written authorization from One Lens Two.

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Article Contributors
John Miller John Miller is the owner of "One Lens Two" and "In and Around Phoenix". He is also a co-owner of "Fooding Around Phoenix". John is always looking for collaboration opportunities so contact him using one of the options below!